For a Clinton campaign aiming to re-create Obama’s winning coalitions, all of this proved too large a target to pass up. Clinton had proved to be a subpar campaigner, so with the FBI restarting and reclosing a criminal investigation into her email habits, her closing message focused on a moral argument about Trump’s character. “Our core values are being tested in this election,” she said in Philadelphia, the night before the election. “We know enough about my opponent. We know who he is. The real question for us is what kind of country we want to be.”

The strategy worked, in a way. Clinton got about 2.5 million more votes than Trump, and on Election Day, more than 6 in 10 voters told exit pollsters that Trump lacked the temperament for the job of President. But the strategy also placed Clinton too far away from the central issue in the nation: the steady decline of the American standard of living. She lost the places that mattered most. “There’s a difference for voters between what offends you and what affects you,” Conway helpfully explained after it was over.

In the dining room, a TIME reporter reads to Trump one of Obama’s oft-stated quotes about trying to appeal to the country’s better angels and to fight its tribal instincts. Trump promptly stops the interview in its tracks. The human brain is wired for anecdote, not analysis, and Trump’s whole career is a testament to this insight. Even when his business failures mounted, he could always boast about the ratings of his hit reality show, The Apprentice, or that time he finished construction on the Wollman ice rink outside his window. “So let me go upstairs for one second and get you one newspaper article,” he says. “Do you mind if I take a one-second break?” And then he disappears into his living quarters above.

He returns a few minutes later with that morning’s copy of Newsday, the Long Island tabloid. The front-page headline reads, “EXTREMELY VIOLENT” GANG FACTION, with an article about a surge of local crime by foreign-born assailants. His point, it seems, is that the world is zero-sum, full of the irredeemable killers that Obama’s idealism fails to see.

-Michael Scherer ‘2016 person of the year Donald Trump‘ Time


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